Contextualism and the Skeptic: Comments on Engel
Mylan Engel’s paper (2004) is divided into two parts: a negative part, criticizing the ‘costs of contextualism’ and a constructive part proposing a ‘non-contextualist resolution of the skeptical problem.’ I will only address the constructive part here. The constructive part is composed of three elements: (i) a ‘reconstruction’ or ‘reformulation’ of the original skeptical argument, which draws on the notion of epistemic possibility (e-possibility), (ii) a distinction between two senses of ‘knowledge’ (and two corresponding kinds of e-possibility): fallibilistic and infallibilistic, and (iii) an argument which tries to hoist the skeptic by their own petard, namely the closure principle (CP). As I will argue, there are two ways to understand Engel’s antiskeptical argument. Only in one interpretation does the argument depend on the proposed ‘reconstruction’ of the skeptical argument in terms of e-possibility. But this version of the argument is unsound. More importantly, the skeptic has a strong prima facie objection at her disposal, which applies to both interpretations of the argument. If this objection is valid, Engel’s argument does not hold. But once it is invalidated, his argument is superfluous.
KeywordsKnowledge Ascription Independent Reason Epistemic Possibility Skeptical Argument Closure Principle
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